Week 371

First Sunday of Advent

Reading I
Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Reading II
1 Cor 1:3-9
Mk 13:33-37

Choosing between the car and the railroad was difficult this morning, but my environmentalist instincts prevailed and I parked the car at the railroad station and went to the end of the line to board a subway train that deposited me in an area where I figured I would see one of two things: a nearly-deserted church with about ten or twenty quiet people, or a lively, boisterous, "friendly" parish. I encountered the latter at the parish's 10:00 AM English Mass.

The building's cornerstone reads "MCMII," and the church is pretty much as it was back then. The altar rail is shortened by about half on either side, but the original altar and reredo are still there, although the center tabernacle was not used today; instead, the tabernacle on the left side altar had a white cloth over it and was the active tabernacle. Over the altar is a large, colored relief potrtait of Jesus in heaven with the Blessed Mother and the angels and saints. The flat ceiling is higher in the center than on the sides and features dark square mouldings to give it some class. The stained-glass windows on the higher walls are small and non-descript. A traditional crucifix is at the front left, near the side altar. A freestanding altar is at the center of the sanctuary. Over the altar is a small, ornate cross from which hangs a the outline of a circular canopy. The small, wooden ambo is at the left, covered by a banner with the name of the parish. The pews are in four sections, with the side sections against the walls and the center sections split by dividers that prevent people from walking across the entire pew. A small section for the choir and organ were carved from the front right pews; the large choir loft was not used today. Copies of WLP's íCelebremos!/Let Us Celebrate! Spanish/English missalette are located on tables by the doors. As I entered, a lady handed me a missalette with a bulletin and a copy of the Parish Prayer for Outreach tucked inside. I then took a seat in pew number 23, located where I figured not too many others would sit. An usher came to me and asked if I would kindly sit in the front left as it was "Men's Day," but I politely declined as it did not seem appropriate, especially as I was merely a visitor.

The Mass did not begin until probably 10:05 AM or so, when the cantor announced the entrance hymn, "Soon and Very Soon." About 100 or so people were in the congregation by that point. Five servers, the choir, and two priests swayed their way up the center aisle clapping their hands in the entrance procession. The celebrant started by thanking God that we had awakened this morning and then led the choir in the Kyrie alone. The Gloria was omitted for Advent. The celebrant led us in the alternative opening prayer.

The cantor looked for the person scheduled to give the first reading, but this person was not present, so he selected another member of the congregation and announced him by name as he was led up the center aisle from the rear by a server and the choir sang a background chant. He went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The first reader departed and the cantor led the responsorial psalm for the day from the cantor's lectern. Then he announced by name the second reader, who also was led through the center aisle by a server. The cantor and choir led an Alleluia as the priest went to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel.

The celebrant came into the center aisle to preach the homily. He started with a theme of "thanksgiving for all God has done for us." We heard about a cousin of his who was a bit separated from the family and whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina but now realizes that things aren't what's important in life-- people are. The priest spoke of how we rail when God or His Church asks something relatively simple of us, such as attending Mass on Sunday, but when the secular culture tells us to get up at 5 AM to start holiday shopping, we jump. One story he told was that of a fellow who tripped and fell into a hole. Two ladies from the church passed him and dismissed his cries for help, saying, "You got yourself into that hole; now you'll have to get yourself out." A priest passed and said, "Maybe someone will come along later." Finally the man's friend passed and jumped into the hole too. "You're crazy!" said the first man. "Now we're both stuck." The friend reassured them, "I've been in this hole myself and I know the way out." The friend, of course, is a "type" of Jesus. The homily was seasoned by a number of "Amen's" from the congregation. The priest made brief mention of the men herded into the front right corner for "Men's Day" and how important their presence and activity in the community is to the parish.

The celebrant led us in a dialogue profession of faith for some reason not apparent to me. Then a member of the congregation was introduced and led forward to lead the Prayer of the Faithful. At its end, those in the congregation were invited to offer their own prayers aloud; a few did so. The priest lit the Advent wreath using the Easter candle and using the usual prayer from the rite. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. Three members of the congregation brought the gifts forward. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. The congregation did not stand until after its response to the Orate Fratres invitation was complete. The choir sang an unannounced hymn on its own during the offertory.

We sang the Sanctus to a setting I am unable to identify. The celebrant offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. A server sounded bells at the consecration. We sang the Memorial Acclamation. The servers knelt before the Memorial Acclamation but stood after that for some reason. We sang the Great Amen.

After that, things started to go downhill, as I had suspected would happen. Fortunately, my selection of pew was fortuitous, and I escaped the joined hands that afflicted the rest of the congregation for the Lord's Prayer. The "Deliver us, O Lord..." prayer was discarded in favor of joining the Lord's Prayer to the following embolism. The sign of peace degenerated into a five-minute exercise in ostentatiousness that unduly prolonged the Mass as those in the congregation wandered all around the nave, and the Body and Blood of Christ were left ignored and unattended on the altar while the two priests mingled with the congregation. We sang the Agnus Dei to what sounded like the same setting that was used for the rest of the Mass.

Two extraordinary ministers assisted the two priests in distributing Holy Communion. The priests stood in the center, and the lay ministers offered the chalice on either side. Those on the sides went to the rear and then up the center aisle. The choir sang a hymn on its own after receiving Communion; it sounded like "Jesus Christ Is the Way." I think the choir also sang a second hymn; after one or both of these it was applauded.

After the choir was finished, we stood and the celebrant offered the closing prayer. We sat while the cantor introduced a member of the congregation to give some chatty announcements from the lectern, and then the concelebrating priest went to the ambo and started thanking the celebrant (apparently a visitor). He asked if anyone had any anniversaries or birthdays to announce, and several people did. "Visitors" were also asked to stand, but one visitor shrunk in his pew hoping not to be noticed. Everyone who spoke received a round of applause. Finally, after considerable delay, we recited the parish prayer for "Outreach," the celebrant imparted a solemn blessing, and the servers and priests left via the center aisle as the choir sang another hymn that I couldn't quite identify. The Mass ran about an hour and a half. Before I escaped, a friendly lady asked if I was staying for refreshments, but I told her I had to catch a train, which must have sounded rather strange to her even though it was absolutely true. In the end, the deluxe sign of peace and the premium announcements caused me to arrive at the railroad station at 12:07 PM, two minutes after the train home departed, leaving me to do laps around the railroad station for exercise as I waited almost an hour for the next train. If only all these peaceful people knew what they were doing to me, perhaps they would have relented and settled for a mini-sign of peace and printed more announcements in the bulletin for me to peruse on the trip home. Sigh.

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In Foxfield, Colorado, Mass is offered at Our Lady of Loreto Church on E. Arapahoe Rd. No matter where you go across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2004
Same Sunday in 2003
Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999